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Engine OEMs Transition From Old To New

Engine OEM representatives discussed navigating challenges around support and spares when transitioning from old to new engine programs at Aviation Week Network's Engine Leasing, Trading & Finance event in London.

GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce have expressed overall satisfaction with their new-generation engine programs despite some growing pains related to the entry-into-service phase and the transition from older programs to newer ones.

In a panel on new engine programs held at Aviation Week’s Engine Leasing, Trading & Finance event on May 2, Paul Finklestein, marketing director at Pratt & Whitney, acknowledged the struggles encountered by Pratt & Whitney on the PW1100G geared turbofan (GTF) program over the past few years. Some of these included issues related to combustor chamber lining degradation, which contributed to delays on Airbus A320neo deliveries. Pratt also was alerted to faulty lift off seals on some of the engines, which led to it switching back to a previous configuration of the knife-edge seal earlier this year.

Currently in operation on around 150 aircraft comprised of Airbus A320neo, Bombardier CSeries and as of early-May, Embraer E190-E2 aircraft, Finklestein said the modifications have smoothed over some of the challenges with the engine program. “Everything going out of the door today has modifications for the earlier issues so we’re back on track with that,” he said of the GTF program.

When bringing the new engine into service, he said the U.S. manufacturer separates teams working on the GTF from more mature variants such as the PW4000 and V2500, with more than half of the older engines yet to undergo their first shop visits.

“We keep these teams separate to ensure the right amount of focus is allocated for customers depending on which engine they operate,” he told the panel.

Meanwhile, Brian Ovington, engine services marketing director at GE Aviation, said the OEM experienced a relatively smooth entry-into-service (EIS) of its new engine type--the CFM LEAP family for the 737 MAX and A320neo narrowbodies and the GEnx, an option for the 787 and the 747-8. Both engines have yet to experience AOG incidents, he said.

Typically, GE will start its EIS process around two years in advance with the customer, focusing on training, licensing and provisioning. Ovington said last year GE shipped about 460 LEAP engines, a figure expected to more than double this year to around 1,200 rising to 2,000 annually by 2020. “Given we supply a lot of engines there is also a significant supply chain effort in transitioning over from one program to another,” he said.

Like Pratt, Ovington said there is an importance in retaining a strong focus on the GE’s legacy fleet. “While we’re shifting over production, we will be hitting the peak of our shop visit periods on engines such as the CFM56 and GE90 so this involves a lot of forecast integration with our customers to ensure parts availability for these programs,” he said, acknowledging the existence of supply issues on some of GE’s current in-service engine fleets.

“For assets to support EIS, we’re sitting at around three times the spares levels, which is more than our usual level of two times higher,” he added.

Alastair Knox, head of aircraft transitions at Rolls-Royce, said the British engine maker is “very pleased” with the results of the Trent XWB, found on the Airbus A350 aircraft and the Trent 1000 powering the Boeing 787.

Despite Rolls-Royce’s satisfaction with the new engine types, Knox said there are some challenges to consider dependent on the size of the carrier awaiting new models to enter their fleets. “As engines and aircrafts have become more advanced technologically, the product is naturally more complex. This is especially daunting for smaller airlines rather than major ones as they tend to need a lot more support,” he says.

“This is where the service angle comes into it--ensuring that there is a lot of significant risk transferred from the airline to the engine manufacturer to minimize risk and focus on flying the aircraft instead of worrying about parts availability, engine spares and logistics.”

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